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A rainy day and the Nationals rotation

So much rain collected on the field at Space Coast Stadium that, "Viera's got some new lakes," Nationals reliever Jason Bergmann said. So no game today, but the weather couldn't prevent today from being one of the more consequential days of spring, even before the President Obama announcement.

Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman formally announced their first four starters. In order, John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Craig Stammen and Livan Hernandez will pitch the regular season's first four games. The competition for the fifth spot will come down to J.D. Martin, Scott Olsen and Garrett Mock, Riggleman said.

Stammen and Hernandez became the first two starters from among the multitude of candidates vying for a starting spot to earn a place in the rotation. Stammen has "out-pitched everybody here except maybe Lannan," Riggleman said. Stammen this spring had a 3.14 ERA in 14 1/3 innings, allowing 14 hits and four walks while striking out 10.

Riggleman did not bother to tell Hernandez, the most veteran among the contenders and the man who threw the first pitch in Nationals history. "He'd probably say, 'No, kidding. Why you telling me now? Was there ever a doubt?' "

Thing is, there was.

"Absolutely," Riggleman said. "You've got five spots for seven or eight people. You could do the math."

Hernandez earned the start by coming into spring training in excellent shape and then performing. He allowed two earned runs in eight innings, allowing six hits and five walks while striking out five.

The Nationals wait until the opening days of the year to choose their last starter. Based on days off, the Nationals will not need a fifth starter until April 11. Until then, they could carry four starters on their roster, allowing them to use an extra reliever or positon player during the first five games.

Hernandez was to pitch today before the rain out, which will not be made up. The Nationals will instead have Hernandez pitch tomorrow in an intrasquad minor league game.

In their regularly scheduled game in Jupiter, Fla., Mock will pitch a game suddenly infused with intense meaning for him. At some point this spring, Riggleman began lumping Mock with Lannan and Marquis as certain starters. Now, though, Mock will still have to earn a spot.

"Stammen and Livo are just throwing better than everybody," Riggleman said. "It's hard to ignore what they're doing."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 29, 2010; 2:01 PM ET
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Next: Stephen Strasburg won't pitch Saturday at Nationals Park


Wasn't Strasburg scheduled to pitch a minor league game today? Will he be pitching a bullpen session instead or will he be making up the game tomorrow as well?Do you know when he will be pitching next?

And with Livan pitching tomorrow, will he be ready to pitch on Satuday as well? If not, any idea who will pitch for the Nats against Boston?

Posted by: cassander | March 29, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Anyone find out anything about John Sickel's Nationals sleeper Nate Karns yet?

Posted by: periculum | March 29, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

We are going to have to go through this all over again in June and July with Riggleman. At some point Riggleman is going to have to let go of his old vets and let the young arms come up from the minors and pitch. And they do have guys who should be ready. Riggleman you aren't going to make any traction in the NL East until they do.

Posted by: periculum | March 29, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Just wondering why Riggleman made it sound like Mock has a rotation spot sewn up when that clearly was not the case.

Posted by: slopitchtom | March 29, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Karns--Brian at Farm Authority had Karns listed as one of his top twenty picks. Didn't sign till late; power pitcher who was an all star or something in his league, or playoffs--Sorry I'm so vague. Can't remember details but they sounded reasonably impressive at the time. Details will be in Brian's archives.
For the few complainers about Ian Desmond's errors in spring training, I would like to point out that he had five, three coming in one game. He played over a hundred innings this spring. Take away that game, not to mention the added pressure of trying to make the team, add in the outstanding plays he made and I, for one, think he's been just fine, thank you.
Heck, even Zimm had three errors in one game last year.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | March 29, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Unrelated: Nats have another catcher

Posted by: TimDz | March 29, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

If Batista throws to Coste, we'll have a literary battery. That's cool.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 29, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

peric's right, this issue is going to be with us for a long time. When Detwiler's ready, does he come up? Someone's got to go down. When CM Wang is ready, someone's got to go down. When Strasburg passes the magic late May date and the Nats have an early June homestand, someone's got to go down. And of course Chico, Martin, Mock, Olsen will be putting pressure on each other all season too. Add J Zimmermann in the mix in August / September.

It's not the worst problem to have, but it's not going away, not for a long time.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 29, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Unrelated: Nats have another catcher

Posted by: TimDz | March 29, 2010 2:40 PM

I wonder if Rizzo really wants him, or if he's just screwing with the Mets.

If we pick this guy up, we've got to add him to the 40 man roster. Why the heck would we do that for 2nd tier (no insult intended) part time catcher?
Are we that sure that Flores is not going to be available this year?

If we complete this acquisition, then Flores has to go on the 60 day DL to clear a spot on the 40 man. We're not going to to have 4 catchers on the 40 man, that's absurd.

Be interesting to see how this plays out.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 29, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

it's not a "problem" at all. the more choices you have, the more depth you have. and the less you lose when you have to bring someone up to replace for an injury. or if you need to move someone in a trade.

the only downside is that they're mostly 4th/5th in the rotation pitchers we're talking about here. but hey, depth is needed at those spots, too. if they get caught and have to release one in may or june, is that really a bad thing for the team?

Posted by: sec231 | March 29, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

What team, never mind our baby-steps Nationals, knows what its rotation is going to be throughout the year when they break ST? You can't be sure. Start what you think's going to work best now based on the recent evidence and past history, and the rest will naturally sort itself out over time. Some guys will perform better than expected, others less well, some might get injured at some point, but you go with who's hot and who's healthy and then see where you are, try to bring along some of the younger guys when they're ready and maybe if you're lucky, develop some excess that can be traded or strengthen your pen. This is not a problem until it's a problem, and if it is a "problem", then it'll be a much better problem to have than the all too-familiar alternative. What's that old saying? Oh yeah -- you can never have too much pitching! After what we've been through, I'll just count us fortunate if we turn out to have merely "enough" by season's end, much less any kind of "established" big-league rotation 3 or more spots deep.

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | March 30, 2010 3:48 AM | Report abuse

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